If we could get high enough to look through the second story windows of the Lost Swan, we would find our three adventurers sitting around the hearth of one room... Arbiddance's room... surveying the loot taken the previous day. All three were still splattered with the mud created from last night's rain and their cautious trek back to the little inn. The wizard seemed absorbed in the ornate dagger.
The rain still spattered against the window glass as the three silently sat and contemplated...
"How are we going to unload all of this?" Hern asked the magic question. "There's no way we'll get the real value of these items from any traveling merchant in this area. I don't fancy dragging it all the way back to Talos... where the only decent antiques dealers are in the whole Duchy... and trying to get this load past the gate guards."
"What are the guards going to do? Grab an item each, take it home and put it on the shelf next to all of their other precious antiques?" Qova smirked. "Or hock it for tavern money? No dog on those gates could begin to guess the real worth of any of these items."
"I have a suggestion," Arbiddance mumbled.
"Sometimes, finding stuff like this is more trouble than it's worth," Hern interjected. "I'd rather find coins or gems... stuff you can easily unload... or even useful items like weapons. Or magic. I grew up in a house full of antiques, and I was never comfortable around them. They sit there on the shelves, looking at you, as if thinking 'I'm better than you.' "
Arbiddance cleared his throat and spoke up. "I have a suggestion." The other two turned to him. Qova raised her eyebrows to urge him on.
"Let's take them back."
Hern wasn't sure he heard the comment correctly. "Say again?"
"Take them back. Look, obviously we'll be here for a long time, if we take the right approach to all this, and even if we don't, we need a base around here. This inn is fine, but if we keep dragging bags of stuff back here, someone's going to start talking, and talking leads to the Duke's men coming by for a visit. Can't have that."
"Ok, so... what?" Qova asked.
"Here's what we should do," Arbiddance lounged further into the large chair he occupied. "Let's take one or two good items and sell them to the next merchant, right? Get some seed money, and let's buy some supplies... and let's occupy the ruins for ourselves."
Hern twisted in his chair, his attention glued on the wizard.
"We'll take steps to make the entrance a little harder to find," Arbiddance continued. "Clear it out some more to our satisfaction, and then secure an area... I know how... and leave all important items we find there. In the meantime, we'll buy the land from who ever owns it, build a nice little house right in front of the hill, right over the entrance, and explore it at our leisure."
"A house built into the side of a hill is not uncommon in this area," Hern mused. "It wouldn't stand out too much."
"Exactly," Arbiddance. "Hide in plain sight."
"What about the boys who found the entrance," Qova asked. "Build a house right there, and they'll put two and two together."
"We could pay them off," Arbiddance suggested.
"Bribes sometimes get out of control," countered Hern.
"No, we can pay them off, and well," Arbiddance said. "But we'd have to make it clear that they'll have to keep it shut from now on, or I just might shape change the offending party into a dog, and he can spend the rest of his life licking his own balls." Arbiddance never took his eyes off the dagger in his fingertips while he spoke.
"Okay, so Joe the woodcutter suddenly has a lot of money, and can't tell anyone where it came from... see the problem there?" Qova waved into the air.
"I see his problem," Hern grinned. "He doesn't make it ours or woof-woof."
"So, it's agreed then?" Arbiddance looked up at his companions. Both said yes and began to repack the precious items into the bag. Arbiddance smoothly slid the dagger underneath his robe, and neither Qova nor Hern bothered to ask him why.
"Now," Arbiddance rose and walked toward the door. "Let's find out... very casually... who owns that property."